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Photographer's Note

In 2014 I spent a week in Kanazawa, Japan. My trip represented a working vacation, in which I attended a conference, gave a lecture and probed as deep as a one-week visit would allow. Japan represents a multilayered culture, so very different than what is seen in the West, except for the Starbucks Coffee Houses that in many places replace Geisha houses with young people focused on their laptop screens. A world of Samurai Warriors, Ninja Assassins, Sumo wrestlers, Geisha women, Kabuki and Oiran performers… — it is all endlessly fascinating. Kabuki performances are highly lyrical plays allowing actors to demonstrate their range of skills in visual and vocal performance. These actors have carried the traditions of Kabuki through dozens of generations, indeed many of the actors tracing their ancestry and performing styles to the earliest Kabuki actors. Takero was gracious in offering a critical correction. "This is Oiran..." he writes, "in Kabuki they paint special lines on their faces."

According to the Britannica, the Kabuki form dates to the early 17th century, when a female dancer named Okuni (who had been an attendant at the Grand Shrine of Izumo), achieved popularity with parodies of Buddhist prayers. She assembled around her a troupe of wandering female performers who danced and acted. Okuni’s Kabuki was the first dramatic entertainment of any importance that was designed for the tastes of the common people in Japan. The sensuous character of the dances (and the prostitution of the actors) proved to be too disruptive for the government, which in 1629 banned women from performing. Young boys dressed as women then performed the programs, but this type of Kabuki was suppressed in 1652, again because of concern for morals. Finally, older men took over the roles, and it is this form of all-male entertainment that has endured to the present day. Kabuki plays grew in sophistication, and the acting became more subtle. Thus the stern looking performer in the photo is a man, playing a pregnant woman.

Finally, in terms of artistic composition, that vertical gold bar on the right is ultimately fortuitous.

One of the greatest painters in history, Vermeer, chose to illuminate the edge of a picture frame in one of his masterpieces, "Girl Holding a Balance."



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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6809 W: 476 N: 12168] (41255)
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